Michelle Keegan takes on the body bullies and reveals how her marriage got a new lease of life
WHEN Michelle Keegan posted a picture of herself and husband Mark Wright on a beach a few weeks ago, to most people it was just a photo of a happy couple enjoying a fabulous holiday.
But actually that picture signalled a significant shift. It was the first time Mark had appeared on Michelle’s Instagram feed in nearly two years, following a decision by both of them to pull back from the public eye and protect their relationship.
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Sharing that photo was a clear sign that after having spent a long time feeling exasperated with the attention and speculation their marriage attracted, Michelle, 31, is now feeling much more relaxed about their situation.
“I liked the picture, but I hadn’t done it for so long,” she says. “And then I stopped and wondered if I was overthinking it. So I posted it.” And the sky didn’t fall in?
“It was fine,” she smiles. “But social media has changed from when we first got together. Everyone has got it, you post a picture and it goes everywhere in a matter of minutes. I’m just more aware of it.”
The move to shut down was a calculated one, and according to Michelle it seems to have worked. She certainly feels they’ve achieved what they set out to do, with the added bonus of having learned to stop caring about what other people think.
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“I know there’s interest but I just thought: ‘I’m not feeding it any more,’” says Michelle.
“And by stopping that, we’ve taken back control. Massively. It was relentless every week – especially because we lived away from each other [when Mark was working in LA].
"We get that we’re in the public eye and have a public relationship, but we’re normal people at the end of the day, and we don’t need to give all of ourselves up.
“I feel like we’ve regained control and now we don’t read anything in the news anyway. If someone asks if I’ve seen a story, I literally haven’t. A few years ago I would have read it and it would have really upset me and panicked me a bit. Now, honestly, I don’t care.”
Earlier this year, Mark quit his LA-based TV presenting job to rejoin Michelle in the UK and put an end to the tiresome travelling back and forth across the Atlantic that had become part of their lives.
He told Fabulous back in March that she’d cried when he told her his plans to return home, but Michelle scoffs at this today.
“He said I cried! I didn’t cry! Pfft. I think he just wanted people to think that. But don’t get me wrong, I’m really, really happy.
"Having him home… It’s nice just doing normal things: going to the deli for breakfast, getting a takeaway on a Saturday night, planning what Netflix series we’re going to watch, travelling back and forth between Manchester and Essex to see our families, and having that flexibility.”
She says she never once put any pressure on him to give it up. Coming home was his choice entirely.
“I never wanted to tell him to come back. It’s not my place to tell him what to do. I wanted him to be ready to do it himself – it’s his career and he made the choice. Hopefully it’s the right one.
“And you know, we saw each other a lot while he was over there. We weren’t going months and months without seeing each other, whatever people thought.
It worked. Yeah, the travelling could get exhausting, but at this time in our lives it was exciting and we can look back in 10 or 20 years time and say: ‘God, what a great experience that was.’”
We are sitting poolside at a luxury Ibizan villa where we’ve just shot Michelle in her latest collection for Very.
Mark is away filming a top-secret project, and so she’s brought along her lovely mum Jackie, who’s catching some rays on a nearby sunlounger while we chat.
Even when she’s off camera and has removed all the shoot make-up, Michelle still looks like a movie star, but she’s entirely without the A-list ego.
She’s level-headed and undemanding, although also guarded and skilled at giving the impression of openness without ever revealing very much at all.
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When asked what she thinks the misconceptions are about her, she turns to Jackie. “Mum, what do you think people have got wrong about me?”
Her mum replies instantly: “Well, that you’ve had loads of work done.”
“Well yeah, there’s that,” says Michelle, scrunching up her nose in irritation, partly, one suspects, because she’d rather her mum hadn’t opened up that particular can of worms. And has she had work done?
Jackie laughs. “I’d kill her if she did,” she says. Michelle raises her eyebrows to show that her face, while flawless, does indeed move.
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“Your face changes anyway as you get older,” she says, pointing out that of course she’s going to look different from when she was 20 and starting out in Corrie.
“When you’re growing up in the public eye, it’s hard to go from a girl into a woman in front of everyone. I’m a normal girl from a normal background, I just happen to be in the public eye. My job is to be on TV and that’s it.”
Oh, hang on, Jackie’s thought of another one: “And that you don’t eat!”
Michelle’s body has often been the subject of scrutiny within the media. “I’m naturally small and always have been,” she says.
“But when people say: ‘God, you’re dead skinny’, or: ‘You need to put on weight’ – why is it OK to say that to a woman? It’s so rude. They wouldn’t say that to a man. No one comments if they think a man has lost weight or if they think he needs to eat more.”
She’s fully behind Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh campaign, a body positivity movement that encourages women to recognise they are worth so much more than what the scales say.
“Oh, I love her,” says Michelle. “She’s empowering women and young girls. We’re not about our weights or our looks. I love that she’s promoting a healthy body image and all the positives in her life: having a loving family, being a good friend – that’s what’s real.”
Jameela also recently called out the likes of the Kardashians for their various promotional deals, describing them as a “toxic influence on young girls”.
“I think people don’t believe it any more,” says Michelle, who says she never accepts offers to do sponsored social media posts just for the pay check.
“The public aren’t stupid, they know that celebrities are getting paid to promote. I don’t want to influence young women to do or buy something that I don’t feel passionate about, just so I get paid for it.
"Anything I do is for something I’ve created, like my Very range or an acting job. For me, that’s where I draw the line.”
It’s been five years since Michelle left Coronation Street to explore other opportunities and she’s firmly established herself as one of the country’s brightest actresses with starring roles in Tina And Bobby, Our Girl and new comedy series Brassic, which is coming to Sky One this summer.
Book you read?
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. It’s so good!
Movie you watched?
The Favourite. I’m in awe of Olivia Colman’s acting.
Dirty John. And I want to watch the documentary as well.
Time you cried?
Watching Crazy Rich Asians.
Time you lost your temper?
Probably with Mark, for not picking his boxers up off the bedroom floor.
Time you were drunk?
I had a few rums last night and I was definitely tipsy!
She’s flying to South Africa shortly after our shoot to film her third series of Our Girl, which put paid to any notion of staying on in Ibiza for a couple of days’ holiday (“My mum’s gutted about that,” says Michelle. “Such a selfish child,” jokes Jackie).
“This year is going to be so busy. I’ve had some time off recently, which was nice after eight months of filming Our Girl with long days and six-day weeks.
"I needed to stop for a while, and I’m in a lucky position now where I can take my foot off the gas now and again and have some downtime. But I’ve had my time off and I want to get stuck into it again. I’m excited.”
She’s also kept busy with her sideline career in fashion. This is Michelle’s seventh collection for Very and she’s involved in the whole process – from choosing the fabrics to overseeing the designs – and is in constant contact with the team via WhatsApp.
“I’m not a dressy kind of girl, I prefer to wear casual clothes and you can see how that’s developed in the range,” she says.
“As I’ve got older, I’ve grown in confidence and the collections have evolved because of that. So I don’t like big prints, they just don’t suit me. I feel more comfortable in simple clothes.
"Like, I love the denim jumpsuit from this collection. The fabric is really good, it’s not too thick and it holds the body really well. It has to be things I would buy and wear myself.”
She says she gets nervous before the launch of each collection and keeps a close eye on the website, which reveals how many people are looking at a certain item and how many have bought it.
“I read the comments as well,” she says. “I want to see people’s reactions, I need to know what people are saying and treat it as feedback.
“I often see people wearing the pieces and I’m well chuffed. I go up to them and say: ‘Excuse me…’’ And I ask them for a picture. Honestly, it never gets old.”
Once Our Girl wraps, there’s potentially another series of Brassic to come later this year. She’s also had some promising meetings with production companies about various script ideas she has and she hopes to break into writing.
Michelle has no plans to follow in Mark’s footsteps to try to crack America, though.
She says the idea that you haven’t experienced true success as an actor until you’ve made it in the States is out-dated.
“It’s always been in people’s heads that to make it you have to go to Hollywood, but you really don’t any more. There’s so much brilliant work in Britain and times are changing. People ask if I’d like to do a movie, but TV is kind of taking over, isn’t it?
“I’m happy to stay at home, because I think we’re spoiled at the minute. I love working in Britain, I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else.”
- Michelle Keegan For Very is available exclusively at Very.co.uk.
Michelle Keegan looks stunning as she unveils her new Very collection
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